A cippus (plural: cippi; "pointed pole") is a low, round or rectangular pedestal set up by the Ancient Romans for purposes such as a milestone or a boundary post. They were also used for somewhat differing purposes by the Etruscans and Carthaginians.

Various forms of cippi

Roman cippiEdit

Roman cippi were made of wood or stone; inscriptions on the stone cippi indicate their function or the area that they surrounded, like sanctuaries and temple areas. In Rome they marked the limits of the Pomerium, the course of aqueducts and the Cursus publicus. Cippi lined up in rows were also often numbered, often featuring the name of the person placing them or the distance to the nearest cippus. The inscriptions on some cippi show that they were occasionally used as funeral memorials.[1]

Etruscan cippiEdit

Between 800–100 BCE cippi were used by the Etruscans as tombstones, which were shaped differently depending on the place and time of origin. Cippi were set up as a stele, column or sculpture in the dromos of an Etruscan grave or at the grave entrance. They had magical and religious significance. Cippi may have the shape of a cube, knob, onion, egg, ball or cylinder. There are connections between certain shapes and the representation of canopic jars; cinerary urns that were made in the shape of a human torso, and the head as a lid.[2][3]

The "Cippus Abellanus" (in the Oscan language), like the "Cippus Perusinus", is not a tombstone.[4]

Punic cippiEdit

Carthaginian cippi have a base similar to Egyptian steles, which are sometimes also referred to as cippi (for example the "Metternich Cippi" in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). They are found in North Africa, but also in Sardinia (Cagliari, Teti, Tharros), Sicily (Motya) and Spain (Huelva and Barcelona).[1] The Cippi of Melqart, found in Malta, which bear a Phoenician and a Greek inscription, made it possible for the first time to understand the Phoenician alphabet.[5]



  1. ^ a b Cippus. Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft (in German). Stuttgart. 1899. pp. 2563–2565 – via wikisource.org. Band III,2
  2. ^ Cebrián Fernández, Rosario (2000). Titulum fecit: la producción epigráfica romana en las tierras valencianas. Los soportes (in Spanish). Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia. p. 101. ISBN 9788489512733.
  3. ^ Cooley, Alison E. (2012). The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy. Cambridge University Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-139-57660-4.
  4. ^ "National Archaeological Museum of Perugia – The Cippus of Perugia". Archived from the original on 2012-03-03. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  5. ^ Pierret, Philippe (2001). "Mémoires, mentalités religieuses, art funéraire la partie juive du cimetière du Dieweg à Bruxelles". Annuaires de l'École pratique des hautes études (in French). 114 (110): 523–527. doi:10.3406/ephe.2001.12029.

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